3 Apr 2006

Legal opinion on role of Fiji military traced back to office of NZ foreign minister

10:08 am on 3 April 2006

It's now been revealed that a New Zealand legal opinion on the Fiji military's role under the constitution came from the office of the foreign minister, Winston Peters.

The opinion was handed by the Office of the Fiji President to the military which rejected it.

The Fiji Times quotes Mr Peters' press secretary, Sophie Lee, as saying the New Zealand government legal opinion was shared informally with Fiji authorities.

Ms Lee says New Zealand had conversations with the Fiji government on a range of legal issues including the Reconciliation and Unity Bill and it was in this context that officials prepared a legal opinion which Fiji authorities gave to the military last month.

Fiji's military has rejected that opinion as it contradicts the military's interpretation of the constitution which makes it responsible for the "security, defence and wellbeing of Fiji and its peoples."

The military says since the interpretation was from New Zealand, it is under no obligation to follow it.